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Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is Interviewed About Mick Mulvaney Admitting to Quid Pro Quo; Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney Confirms Quid Pro Quo in Conversation between President Trump and E.U. President; U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Gordon Sondland Testifies to Congress; President Trump Proposes Holding G7 Summit at His Property in Doral, Florida. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired October 18, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do that all the time with foreign policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mulvaney thinks he can put lipstick on that pig and not think it's still a pig.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is hardly an Agatha Christie novel at this. We've got the White House chief of staff admitting to the crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have news for everybody. Get over it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A key figure at the center of the Ukraine scandal testifying before Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the opening statement he says no quid pro quo whatsoever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of us came away believing that there was a quid pro quo. Ambassador Sondland didn't do anything to dispel that notion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Friday, October 18th, 8:00 now in the east. It turns out there was a quid pro quo.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What?
CAMEROTA: Yes, that admission, John, coming from President Trump's acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
BERMAN: Did he say that?
CAMEROTA: He said it not once -- he didn't say it exactly in those terms, but he kind of did, actually. BERMAN: Again and again.
CAMEROTA: So there was this whiplash-inducing press conference, and Mulvaney claimed that withholding military aid to Ukraine for the president's political goals of investigating the Democratic Party is business as usual. He even suggested that you get over it. Those comments came after weeks of quid pro quo denials from the president himself and after the allegations were first raised in the whistleblower complaint. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland, who is highly respected, was there's no quid pro quo. He said that.
No quid pro quo.
No quid pro quo.
No quid pro quo.
No quid pro quo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK, after Mick Mulvaney said there was a quid pro quo, he then attempted to walk back his comments denying that he ever conceded there was a quid pro quo.
BERMAN: That wasn't the only unexpected issue dropped during the acting chief of staff. Earlier he announced the next year's G7 economic summit will be held at the president's very own Doral Golf Resort in Miami. When pressed about clear self-dealing and the potential constitutional violations, Mulvaney essentially said the same thing. Get over it.
All that was happening while the U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was testifying to Congress about the president's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. Sondland told lawmakers it was the president who personally directed him and other State Department officials to work with -- really work through Rudy Giuliani. Go through Giuliani on all things involving Ukraine. And, of course, the president's personal attorney there was trying to get Ukraine to investigate the president's political opponents.
Joining us now, CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Let's just play a little more of the words spoken out loud, not just once, not just twice, but repeatedly with feeling by Mick Mulvaney at this press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he -- it was to withhold funding to Ukraine?
MICK MULVANEY, INCOMING ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.
MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Not just, yes, but we do it all the time. I know he tried to walk it back later, Dana, but we all heard what we heard there. He said it again and again. So what I want to know from you is what's the reaction to all of this, this morning? What are you hearing in Washington about this moment?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it took a little while to hear anything because his fellow Republicans had to pick their jaws off the desk in order to speak, because they were really stunned.
Now, I have to say that in the moment, I was sitting on set watching that, came out to talk about it on this network. And it seemed, to me, and to our colleagues who were sitting there that this was intentional, that he was trying to get out there, bad news, as Ambassador Sondland at that moment was behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, as other information was getting out that perhaps he knew about. And I'm still not convinced that that is exactly what happened.
But the headlines were very, very stark. The headlines were pretty much what you heard our friend John Karl saying in that clip. What he said, not just once, as you said, but multiple times, is there was a quid pro quo. Now he was trying to plant the flag in what we understood was a kind of a gelling Republican strategy, which is we wanted them to investigate -- the administration wanted to investigate the past, the 2016 election. This was not about the future.
And so you kind of heard him try to parse that. It didn't work. Now he's saying both internally and externally that he misspoke, that he didn't use his words right. But he didn't just do it once. He did it many, many times.
CAMEROTA: Whatever he meant to say, Nia-Malika, it sounds like President Trump didn't like it. The reporting is that afterwards that was not staying on message, and that President Trump was upset. And that's why they then hours later released this statement saying that that's not what Mulvaney meant.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. That that's not what Mulvaney meant over and over and over again. The White House yesterday, and the delivery of it. He was confident and sort of smug even in talking about this and saying, get over it, and this happens all the time. He even compared it to some other situations with the U.S. government dealing with the Central American countries in terms of immigration policies. So he had this whole rationale. It was clear that he was speaking to the audience of one, to Donald Trump.
So maybe the president is upset at this point, maybe he's not, but they clearly felt like that there needed to be some cleanup. So you had this really ridiculous statement that essentially blamed the press for misinterpreting the exact words that Mick Mulvaney said, which was --
CAMEROTA: It was live. That's unfiltered. It was live.
HENDERSON: Yes, so it's sort of ridiculous. Nobody misinterpreted what he said. He was very clear over and over again. And as Dana pointed out, they do seem to be trying to say, well, this instance of looking back, right, and Mick Mulvaney emphasizing that whole idea of this is looking back to the 2016 election and had nothing do with Biden. That's a very hard sell when you look at the transcript and when you look at some of those text messages that have come out.
BERMAN: The fact is the president brought up both of them. Once again, to make the point here, Mick Mulvaney didn't just say it. He was so proud of it, he was so proud of what he was saying in the news conference. And that showed while it was live. And it wasn't just that aspect of it, Dana, because he also confirmed what members of Congress were hearing simultaneously from the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, which is that policy regarding Ukraine was funneled through Rudy Giuliani. Mick Mulvaney basically said yes, and there's nothing wrong with that. Gordon Sondland was testifying that he was uncomfortable with it.
Let me just read you a little bit of what Sondland said. He said we were disappointed by the president's direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani. Our view is that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine. However, based on the president's direction, we were faced with a choice. He could abandon the goal of a White House meet with President Zelensky or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the president's concerns.
And that is central to this investigation. Why was the president's personal attorney who was doing political work for the president making all the decisions about Ukraine policy? Mulvaney confirmed it yesterday and Sondland confirmed it yesterday.
BASH: Doing political work for the president, but even potentially more problematic for the president, especially Rudy Giuliani, doing private work for people relating to and working with, maybe even in Ukraine. And that is the man who the president is telling his ambassadors, the people who work for the taxpayers to create national/international policy to go through. So that is a big part of the problem. And, you're right. Mulvaney said, yes, so the president wanted to go
through Giuliani. Get over it. So what? Who cares? And the fact that Gordon Sondland, the president's appointee, somebody who was very eager to be in this job, somebody who has a similar background to the president. He's a hotel guy. He's not a foreign service guy. He gave a lot of money to the president's inauguration. The fact that he clearly said in his testimony and probably a lot more during the 10 hours he was behind closed doors that he was uncomfortable with it says a lot.
Again, it goes back to the question, and perhaps they've already learned this from some of these witnesses that have gone before these committees and depositions is, OK, you felt uncomfortable, but did you also get the feeling that Rudy Giuliani/the president, they were directing you to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden in order to get that money?
CAMEROTA: Yesterday I thought was interesting because a few Republicans came forward to express their frustration, their --
CAMEROTA: Discomfort. But, obviously, Mitt Romney's went further than that. Senator Mitt Romney's went further than that. And he has been the most outspoken and vociferous about it. But then there was Senator Lisa Murkowski who expressed her, I guess, frustration or discomfort, Congressman Francis Rooney. So, quickly, Nia, does that -- is that significant?
HENDERSON: Not really. It's Lisa Murkowski, right? Not a surprise. She's almost like an independent senator in the Republican Party up in Alaska. So it's not surprising that she is expressing her discomfort. My goodness, when I go to the gym and I get on the treadmill there is some discomfort there. So --
BASH: What's that like, Nia?
CAMEROTA: And that's why I don't do it.
HENDERSON: So I think we keep looking for these cracks, but it's the typical people in very light language, right? There is no outrage about this. Again, you imagine if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, had done this, you imagine Obama did this, if any Democrat had done this, there would be a lot of outrage and calls for impeachment and removal from office. We haven't seen that from anyone yet. So there's just a lot of discomfort.
BERMAN: Discomfort. Dana, what does it tell you that Mick Mulvaney and the White House thought it was a good idea to try to shift the focus from the impeach investigation by announcing that the G7 would be held at the president's personal golf course in Miami? BASH: I think that they are -- the president certainly and now the
people around him are missing a shame chip. And I say that not in a derogatory way, but there's a thing that most politicians and most people have where they say this is not going to look bad -- not going to look good and I feel bad about it. They don't care.
And that's, again, how the acting chief of staff came out. The president had this idea -- let's have this at my golf course, at my property. We all said that's not a crazy idea, and we went forward with it. And they just don't care about how it looks. He was asked point blank whether or not this is going to send a bad signal to leaders around the world that this is OK to operate this. Are you worried about that? No. Next question. And I thought that encapsulated so much of the through line of this administration.
BERMAN: Dana Bash, Nia-Malika Henderson, we're very comfortable with you being here this morning.
CAMEROTA: That's right, no discomfort here.
BERMAN: Not any at all.
CAMEROTA: Thank you, guys.
BERMAN: What will Mick Mulvaney's admission/confession of a quid pro quo mean for the impeachment investigation? A member of the House Intelligence Committee who has been hearing from so many of these witnesses joins us next.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We were all listening. We were all watching. The White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that President Trump froze military aid to Ukraine in part to pressure the country into investigating Democrats. Then hours later, Mulvaney tried to walk that back. And after confirming there was a quid pro quo, he denied it.
All this was going on when the former ambassador to the E.U., Ambassador Gordon Sondland, was testifying or expecting to members of Congress in this impeachment inquiry.
I want to bring in Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She sits on the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees. She was in that testimony.
Congresswoman, thanks for being with us.
Broadly speaking, what did you learn from Ambassador Sondland?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I think what we learned from the ambassador is that he was like the enabler. It was like the drunk who tells you that you should go out and buy him another bottle of bourbon, and you do it. He testified to the fact that he knew these things were wrong, but he went ahead and did them anyway.
So, he -- he was one of those many people within this administration that knows that something is wrong but does it anyway.
BERMAN: Enable what exactly?
SPEIER: Well, certainly what we are finding out now is that the whole effort to try and get a phone call with President Trump and President Zelensky, that took months and months and so many hundreds of hours of back and forth. And it started out, as he put it at one point, he said it was insidious that it went from a call, no preconditions to a call with conditions that he talk about corruption to a call that he talk about both Biden and the 2016 election.
You know, the president kept ratcheting up what the conditions were before he would have a conversation.
BERMAN: The conditions, just so I understand it, Gordon Sondland testified it was Burisma but he didn't know there was a Biden connection there. You just said that Biden was a precondition of the phone call.
SPEIER: Correct. But the truth is, it was blaring all over the television and the tweets by both Rudy Giuliani and others.
BERMAN: So we heard Mick Mulvaney admit yesterday, and he was proud of the admission and made it several times over the course of this news conference, that, yes, there may have been a quid pro quo, but it had to do, he suggested, with the investigation of the 2016 election and insofar as that in his mind was connected to corruption. He said it wasn't a quid pro quo for investigating Joe Biden.
What does that matter? What does that distinction matter to you?
SPEIER: None of it matters. I mean, they keep twisting the truth, the whistle-blower's truth. And it is not serving them well. The fact that he blurted out, get over it, suggests to all of us what we need to know.
I mean, this is an administration that is going into a death spiral. And it's time for the Republicans in Congress to recognize the corrupt enterprise that is going on in the White House and call it out.
BERMAN: I asked Ro Khanna if -- earlier today, if he heard everything he needed to in order to cast a vote for impeachment.
Are you ready to vote it?
SPEIER: I'm ready to vote on it. I don't think there's any question in my mind or most people's minds. But I will say that we will continue to do our due diligence and put all of the facts on the table so that all the members, both Republicans and Democrats, have the benefit of a fulsome investigation. BERMAN: OK, all the facts on the table, fulsome investigation, ready
to vote. Because I've been hearing from Republicans who say, how can we vote on this unless we see the transcripts of these inquiries that are going on behind closed doors? Do you feel the transcript of this testimony that you're hearing, because you're part of these committees needs to be released to the full Congress?
SPEIER: Oh, absolutely. And I think there's every intention to do that. Maybe with redactions for anything that is classified or personally identifiable information.
But, no, I don't think there's any question that this information needs to be released.
The reason why we're doing these interviews behind closed doors is so we can get truth. You know, everyone is allowed to come up with a script that they're all going to say, then we're not going to find out the truth.
BERMAN: So you're not releasing the transcripts concurrently. Why?
SPEIER: Because we want to wait until we have interviewed everyone and then we will start, I believe, to -- I certainly would support releasing the transcripts at that time. And certainly before all of this information is turned over to the Judiciary Committee and they contemplate whether or not articles of impeachment are appropriate.
BERMAN: "The Washington Post" is reporting this morning, this has to do with the testimony going behind closed doors that George Kent, a State Department official who testified to you. I'm losing track of the days. I think two days ago? Three days ago?
SPEIER: I can't remember.
BERMAN: They are reporting that George Kent told people asking him questions, members of congress, that he had raised concerns about Hunter Biden's position on the board of Burisma back in 2015 during the Obama administration. This is in "The Washington Post" story.
Can you confirm that he testified to that?
SPEIER: No, I can't confirm whether or not he testified to that. But I would like to point out that we've talked now to a number of Foreign Service professionals, career persons serving in our State Department, 37 years, 34 years, 27 years. All of whom are really pained by the fact that it has been politicized that they've worked for Republican and Democratic presidents in their many long careers. And there's never been this kind of corrupt politicization of that particular department.
BERMAN: What's the one fact you want to get confirmed or the one thing you want to hear more about as you talk to more witnesses?
SPEIER: I think what's going to be important to us as we move forward is to drill down on many of these conversations that took place. We're hearing conflicting recall of what actually took place. So, I think getting more certitude in that regard is going to be helpful to us. But I think it's pretty clear now. We have basically a whistle- blower who gave us a road map, and now the president of the United States driving down these roads to the various crime scenes. And I think all that's happened in just really the last three or four weeks is pretty compelling.
BERMAN: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thanks for being with us.
SPEIER: Thank you, John.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. A new round of fighting overnight in northern Syria, despite the cease-fire declaration. And a chorus of opposition growing louder from Republicans to the president's decision to pull out U.S. troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The announcement today is being portrayed as a victory. It is far from a victory. The cease-fire does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally. We are so weak and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: That was Utah Senator Mitt Romney blasting the cease-fire agreement between Turkey and the Kurds, while the president boasts about his deal-making skills.
So, let's bring in David Sanger. He's national security correspondent for "The New York Times" and a CNN political and national security analyst.
David, it's great to have you here.
Let's just start with the big picture. Why would Vice President Pence agree to a so-called cease-fire that is five days long and appeared to give Turkey and Erdogan every condition that they wanted?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, that's a really great question, Alisyn, because this wasn't much of a negotiation. It appeared that by the end of the day, President Erdogan got everything he wants.
This is a five-day, what the Turks call a pause. They wouldn't even use the word cease-fire. During which time the United States is supposed to help them get the Kurds, our allies, out of the region.
And then if the Turks end up holding this land and eventually pulling back, there's no penalty on them. So there are no sanctions. All the sanctions are lifted.
So, Erdogan accomplishes in a matter of two weeks something he probably thought would take Turkey decades, and he pays no price.
CAMEROTA: And is the feeling that Erdogan outmaneuvered President Trump with the help of Vice President Pence or that President Trump is sort of in cahoots with the thinking of that's how it should have ended?
SANGER: I think that President Trump was not thinking very much about what the shape of the new Middle East would be like this. He said to Nancy Pelosi, as the speaker said herself yesterday --